Theosis is the understanding that human beings can have real union with God, and so become like God to such a degree that we participate in the divine nature. Primarily a term found in
Eastern Orthodox and
Oriental Orthodox theology, from the Greek meaning deification or making divine, theosis is a concept derived from the New Testament regarding the goal of our relationship with the Triune God. The terms
theosis and deification may therefore be used interchangeably in this context.
This does not imply that we become gods, but rather, that we are to become the fullness of the "divine image" in which we were created (Gen. 1:26), i.e. a perfect reflection of our God, and become partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
It may be related to the Protestant concept of
sanctification but goes further with what may be expected in this life, emphasizing the element of our mystical union with God in Christ. It may also be seen as something akin to the Wesleyan idea of "entire sanctification".
However, Theosis remains a mystical concept not easily grasped and subject to various interpretations.
- Daniel B. Clendenin,
Eastern Orthodox Christianity: A Western Perspective (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994).
- Gerald L. Bray, "Deification," in Sinclair B. Ferguson, et. al., ed.,
New Dictionary of Theology (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1988).
- Rowan Williams, "Deification," in Gordon S. Wakefield, ed.,
The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Spirituality (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1983).
- Philip Edgecumbe Hughes, The True Image (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989).